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Myanmar’s Cross-border Migrant Workers and the Covid-19 Pandemic

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Their life stories and the social structures shaping them

Myanmar’s cross-border migrant workers have been significantly affected by the impacts of the pandemic. This report examines the socio-economic impacts with a focus on the well-being of these workers.

2020 will be remembered as the year that the COVID-19 outbreak became a global pandemic. The pandemic has had major impacts on Myanmar’s cross-border migrant workers, altering their lives in the sphere of economic production (e.g., jobs, labour market, etc.), and in the sphere of everyday well-being (e.g., daily subsistence, child care, health care, pension, etc.). This report focuses on the socio-economic impacts and especially on the well-being of these working people. The report looks into who the cross-border migrant workers are, why they have become migrant workers, and how they perceive their own conditions. Their individual life stories are highlighted helping to reveal underlying factors that condition their access to food, shelter, clothing, health and education, and in this way, determines what work they do where.

Patterns can be seen by reading individual testimonials in a wider context using data and analysis found in other reports, studies and publications, and by aggregating responses from the 136 cross-border migrant workers whom we interviewed. We meet these migrant workers at a dramatic moment in their lives. The current moment is conditioned by social structures inherited from the past, but then redefined by a deadly global virus outbreak in the present, and then perceived by way of their own aspirations for a better future for themselves, their families and their communities.

We invite readers to listen to these migrant workers’ life stories and to engage in community conversations about these experiences. We hope that this can contribute to a knowledge building process with the migrant workers that will help in generating the appropriate public action and policies needed to address the current crisis humanely, and to move toward building a post-pandemic new normal that is socially just.


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